In a reversal, Kevin Long is returning as the Nationals hitting coach.
Long and the organization could not initially come to terms on a new contract earlier in the month. The impasse made it appear Long’s three-year run with the Nationals had come to an end. But, they were able to come to a new one-year deal and Long will return, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Washington.
Long, 53, rejoins an evolving staff. Pitching coach Paul Menhart was not retained. Jim Hickey replaced him. Third base coach and former bench coach Chip Hale also will not be back. Bench coach Tim Bogar, bullpen coach Henry Blanco and outfield/first base coach Bob Henley remained with the staff -- to this point. Most contracts for coaching staff run through Oct. 31.
Juan Soto is an ardent fan of Long’s. They use specific drills to keep Soto, who has become one of the game’s best hitters, on balance or retrieve him from mini-slumps. Long is talkative and attached to the batting cages. He spends most days next to the netting in a red T-shirt and game pants waiting for whoever comes to the cage. Otherwise, he is on the field and watching batting practice.
Davey Martinez and Long do have varied visions for general hitting approaches. Long is recognized for his predilection to teach launch angle-based swings -- lift and pull -- and Martinez prefers a through-the-middle approach. However, a lot of this simply comes down to talent at the major-league level. Soto is going to be a top-level hitter no matter the staff, though it’s beneficial to have someone he knows and likes as his coach, which is the case with Long.
Long’s one-year deal is not in sync with Martinez’s three-year contract extension reached in late September. So, the two sides will have to figure out the future again at the end of 2021.
And, Martinez has at least one more decision remaining for his staff. Hale’s replacement is the remaining hole.
MLB.com first reported Long’s return.